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About Me:I am a student at sixth-form currently studying Economics, Biology & Philosophy and Ethics. My articles are mainly focused on Philosophy and explores the different approaches to ethics. They are written in a way which can be used for revision purposes.
In light of the current refugee crisis, the topic of war has constantly been in my mind. The Syrian war is absolutely devastating and my heart goes towards those in Syria and those who have been affected. In the future, my ultimate wish is that war no longer takes place as I personally believe it is unjust.
However, the Just War Theory, proposed by St. Augustine and later developed by St. Thomas Aquinas supports the view that war may sometimes be justified and provides a set of guidelines which war must meet in order for it to be ‘just’. The theory came about at a time where the Roman Empire was threatened and needed to defend its borders using force. At this time, early Christian theologians argued that killing was wrong as we are made in the image of God(imago dei) thus are important and sacred. However in this situation, they recognised that in cases like such, war may be necessary and so developed the Just War Theory - a Christianity originated theory influenced by the teachings of Jesus yet still applicable to all religions.
The Just War Theory consists of three fundamental precepts: jus ad bellum, jus in bello and jus post bellum, meaning that it considers actions which must be taken before war, during war and after war, respectively. These three precepts support the view that war may sometimes be justified as within them contain the 6 criteria created which have to be followed in order for a war to be deemed just. The criteria is that a war must be a last resort, the war must be fought proportionally, the war must be declared by a legitimate authority, the war must have a reasonable chance of success and the war must have a just intention.
A significant factor of the jus in bello precept is ‘proportionality,’ meaning that armed attacks should be proportionate and innocent civilians should not be a target. This is supported by Plato who stated that in order for a war to be just it must have non-combat immunity for civilians and thus this criteria is very important in allowing war to be justified because it ensures that the lives of innocent people are protected.
Expanding on the criteria of ‘last resort’, this means that the war can only be deemed justifiable if it is the last resort and all peaceful methods and negotiations have been attempted first. This concept is supported by the Bible teaching of Deuteronomy 20:10 where it states that “when you enter a city to fight it, offer peace to them first” reiterating the approach of attempting to resolve the problem peacefully first.
Moreover, expanding on the ‘legitimate authority’ criteria, this means that war must be declared by a legitimate authority such as the state and must be done publically. Looking at current affairs, however, it is clear that some countries lack legitimate authorities such as those controlled by the terrorist group ‘ISIS’ and so when taking this into consideration this criteria of the Just War Theory may not necessarily be as effective in justifying war because it is evident that some states are corrupt.
So whilst the Just War Theory provides precepts and conditions which must be met in order for a war to be ‘just’ and most safe it is to be noted that due to corruption that exists in particular countries it may be difficult to measure if all the criteria are actually being met. However despite this difficulty I really do appreciate the concept of the theory as ultimately it is there to reduce the impact of war but like I mentioned before I am a supporter of peace and so I will be exploring if pacifism and war can be compatible in my next article.